With MLS teams entering pre-season mode and First Kick less than a month away, now seems like as good a time as any to survey the 19 rosters for a rundown of the top 50 players in the league. After all, everyone loves lists!
It goes without saying that these things are always highly subjective and debatable of course, but they nevertheless remain a fun and not entirely unrewarding exercise.
In this case for example, the sheer number of arguably deserving names omitted is testament to the league’s new-found depth in quality – something which likely could not be said a few seasons ago – with a host of fresh and exciting talent arriving in recent years.
Those missing the cut ranged from establish veterans to up-and-coming youngsters, with players like Benny Feilhaber, Clarence Goodson, Felipe Martins, Chris Klute, Lee Nguyen, Jack McInerney and 2013 Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers noticeably absent.
Without further ado then, here’s part one of the top 50 players in MLS starting with numbers 50-41:
50. Jaime Penedo, LA Galaxy
The Panamanian international goalkeeper joined the Galaxy in August to replace the under-performing Carlo Cudicini and immediately established himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in MLS, with a string of impressive displays. With the 32-year-old between the posts for the full course of 2014, LA’s defence should prove to be one of the stingiest in the league.
49. Michael Parkhurst (pictured), Columbus Crew
After five years in Europe, Parkhust became one of several U.S. national team players to return to MLS in recent months, with the hope that regular playing time with the Crew will help boost his odds of nailing down a place in Jürgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad. Fully comfortable playing anywhere along the backline, the versatile 29-year-old’s best chance of making Brazil is at full-back, though it’s more likely he starts the season for Columbus in the centre of defence, where he was a standout player for the New England Revolution during the first four years of his career, claiming the 2005 MLS Rookie of the Year and 2007 MLS Defender of the Year awards.
48. Amobi Okugo, Philadelphia Union
After entering the league as a defensive midfielder in 2010, Okugo has found success more recently at centre-back, where he has continued to turn heads with his increasingly impressive performances. The 22-year-old UCLA product may not have time to break into the 2014 World Cup side but, if his form continues, he’ll certainly be a name to look out for with the U.S. national team in the future.
47. Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake
Schuler’s 2013 season was marred by injuries but, when fit and in the side, he quickly reminded everyone why he is so highly thought of in league circles, putting in several outstanding performances during RSL’s playoff run. The 6-4 centre-back’s dominance in the air especially helps on set pieces and it’s only due to offseason surgery to his left ankle that he missed out on a call-up to the U.S. national team’s January training camp roster. Still, at only 26 years old, there will be plenty more opportunities to impress.
46. Kelyn Rowe (pictured), New England Revolution
Rowe showed flashes of potential in his 2012 rookie season, after being drafted third overall, but it was during his sophomore campaign that he truly came to the fore. Becoming a central figure in the Rev’s youth movement, the 22-year-old attacking midfielder scored seven goals and notched eight assists in 33 games, as his side surprised many by making the postseason. While is name was arguably one of the biggest snubs from the U.S.’s January training camp, if Rowe is able to replicate his 2013 performances this season then Jürgen Klinsmann won’t be able to ignore him for much longer.
45. Erick Torres, Chivas USA
After arriving on loan from parent club CD Guadalajara in mid-July, Torres immediately provided the Goats with a much needed offensive spark, ending the year as the team’s leading-scorer with seven goals in 15 games. Back for 2014, with a better supporting cast around him, the 21-year-old Mexican should carry on from where he left off and further establish himself as one of the league’s most exciting young strikers.
44. Mauro Rosales, Chivas USA
The 2011 MLS Newcomer of the Year, Rosales was an offensive metronome during his first two seasons in Seattle, with eight goals and 26 assists over 53 games, earning a Designated Player contract and the club captaincy in the process. Despite a relatively productive 2013 however, the soon-to-be 33-year-old Argentine looked somewhat out of place in the Sounders’ new system once Clint Dempsey arrived in August and it was of little surprise, given his salary cap hit, when his contract option for next season was declined at the end of the year. Promptly traded to Chivas USA, the former Ajax man may not be the player he was during those early days in the Emerald City, after injuries have taken their toll, but he still remains one of the top creative midfielders in the league and should give the offence-starved Goats a much needed boost.
43. Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo
Despite a second straight January call-up, it’s testament to the U.S.’s depth at goalkeeper that Hall finds himself a relative longshot to make it to Brazil. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting that the Dynamo’s 2013 MVP remains one of the best keepers in MLS, as a steady and well-rounded presence behind the backline.
42. Marcelo Sarvas, LA Galaxy
One of the Galaxy’s most reliable and consistent performers in 2013, Sarvas may just be one of the more underrated players in MLS. The 32-year-old Brazilian has formed an extremely effective partnership with fellow countryman Juninho in the centre of midfield and his energetic play on both sides of the ball has quickly made him a fan favourite at the StubHub Center.
41. Brad Evans (pictured), Seattle Sounders
Possibly the most versatile player in MLS, Evans is one of the leading candidates to start at right back for the U.S. in Brazil this summer, but he started matches for the Sounders this past season at left, right and centre midfield and even filled in at centre-back at times. Arguably best suited though to play alongside Osvaldo Alonso in the centre of the park, his leadership status in Seattle was reaffirmed this offseason by the club re-signing him to a new lucrative multi-year contract.